The best games for dogs have evolved from just throwing around a stick in the backyard. Puppers these days have a whole range of chew toys, pool toys, and even exercise equipment to choose from. But if you’re looking to turn playtime into an opportunity for enrichment, there are a whole plethora of goodies to choose from.
You’ve probably noticed that your dog likes some types of toys better than others. And your pooch’s preferences might have a lot to do with their biology. Ali Smith, a professional dog trainer and CEO of Rebarkable explains, “Your dog was bred for a purpose. And helping them live successfully in a home environment, we sometimes need to recognize that they need a little more. Pick toys that are going to excite your dogs natural desires. A destructive dog will like certain toys that perhaps a more nose-based hunting breed might not.” Since no one knows your pup better than you do, it should be pretty simple to pick the game that best suits their personality.
Among other benefits, playtime is a great way to build on the relationship you already have with your pet. “Play is great for bonding you and your dog,” advises Smith. “It can really help the two of you to get a wonderful understanding of one another and encourage your dog to listen to you consistently when it comes to training.”
Above all, finding brain games and puzzles for your fur child can actually improve their behavior and make for a happier, more balanced dog. “Enrichment is wonderful to tire your dog’s brain,” Smith explains. “There’s an old saying that ‘a tired dog is a good dog,’ one I’ve said before! But it’s less about finding the end of their energy and more about finding a balance between physical stimulation, mental stimulation, and sleep. That sweet spot is where your dog will do their very best for you every day.”
So whether you have a hunter, digger, or chaser, here are the best games for every type of dog.
BEST GAMES FOR DOGS
For a dog (or cat!) who is more of a looker than a thinker, this yummy bento puzzle simply requires your pet to slide the nine “sushi” flaps aside to uncover their favorite treats. If you’re more into breakfast than sushi or just want additional games to add to your arsenal, please check out the equally adorable waffle version of this puzzle available within the same listing.
If your dog is happiest when she’s running and retrieving, this ChuckIt! Launcher sends balls flying, so your pup can really go the distance. The launcher has the added bonus of keeping your hands clean of mud and slobber, plus you don’t have to bend over a thousand times to pick up the ball (your back will thank you). The ChuckIt! comes in a few different styles, including this version that glows in the dark for some bonus nighttime fun.
This toy is called Smelly UFO because your dog needs to smell the UFO-shaped toy to discover the treats hidden inside, not because it stinks. It contains two inner mazes for snacks to pass through, and your dog can unleash the treats by flipping and rolling it around. The toy is top rack dishwasher safe, so it’s a breeze to clean.
For the dog who loves to forage, you can hide treats or pieces of kibble in the pockets and folds of this popular snuffle mat. The mat is made from a combination of durable Oxford fabric and polar fleece, with a flower-shaped design that folds and buckles for storage. The large orange petals fit large chunks of food, and the the smaller pockets are great for tiny treats. One Amazon customer said “This is by far the MOST engaging and stimulating activity product we have.”
BEST BRAIN GAMES FOR DOGS
This “hide and squeak” game is made to resemble a plush tree trunk with six stuffed and squeaky squirrels that live inside the trunk — perfect for the dog who loves to hunt, but with 100% less blood! Your dog can spend hours fishing out those pesky rodents, and if they do get bored, the plush squirrels are also the perfect size for a simple game of fetch.
If your dog is past the beginner stage of problem-solving, this set of four puzzle boxes will be sure to keep them engaged. Each of the four different compartments must be opened with lids, knobs, flaps, and drawers, making your dog adapt their approach to each challenge. The rubber feet on the bottom will keep the puzzle from shifting around as your dog tries different tactics, and each compartment can detach if you want to just try out one at a time.
Fun for both puppies and senior dogs, this puzzle feeder has three spinning tubes that your dog can flip and nuzzle to earn their treats. The natural bamboo base adjusts to three different heights and has a sturdy H-shape to prevent tipping. Plus, it works great as a slow feeder for dogs who have a tendency to wolf down their dinner. (It’s also great for cats, if you’re a multi-pet household.)
If your dog is ready to step up to a new challenge, this intermediate-level puzzle has bone-shaped covers that they can nuzzle off for treats, as well as sliding treat covers with mini scent holes. With a total of 20 treat compartments, your dog is sure to stay engaged and content. It’s made with food-safe materials, is BPA-, PVC-, and phthalate-free, and cleans up with soap and water.
BEST PUZZLE GAMES FOR DOGS
If your smarty pants tears through other games with ease, this game has a level three difficulty for advanced dogs — so it might be just the thing to keep them entertained. The play tower has six cones and multiple slots and sliders where you can hide treats. The cones can be used to adjust the level of difficulty, and the puzzle comes with a booklet of tips to help you optimize training. It has non-slip rubber feet to keep it (and your dog) in place, and it’s suitable for dogs of all ages.
If your big dog loves to chew and pull apart their toys, then this is the durable puzzle for you. Pop a treat in each link, then assemble them any way you like for a new challenge every time. When your dog pulls the different links apart, the treats you placed there will fall out, rewarding your dog for all that hard work. And as a bonus, the thick rubber is dishwasher safe, so you won’t have to bother hand-washing it.
Some dogs are scary smart, and this Outward Hound puzzle was built to challenge your clever fur baby with a series of sliding tiles on the border and a rotating wheel to unlock additional treats in the center. Made with food-safe materials, it’s also BPA-, PVC-, and phthalate-free.
For dogs just getting started with puzzles, this beginner-friendly multi-tiered tower has three levels of drawers your dog can pull out to dispense the treats through the bottom of the tower. It also has three cones at the the base to conceal some bonus snacks. Made of rubber, plastic, and rope, the puzzle features rubber feet at the base to keep it in place, and a booklet of tips for training. And if you’re concerned your dog will master it too quickly and get bored, one Amazon customer said “I bought this in 2017. Now 2021, my pups still find this fun.”